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Calvin and Hobbes


Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbies features Calvin, an irrepressible and irresponsible little boy, and his "pet" tiger (who is stuffed, but appears to come to life when Calvin is alone). The comic strip was was published for ten years (from November 18, 1985 to December 31, 1995) and is one of the most influential comic strips of all time.

Bill Watterson named the child Calvin after a 16th century theologian from the French Reformation named John Calvin, and the tiger Hobbes after a political philosopher from 17th century England called Thomas Hobbes. Aside from the names, the characters in the strip bore little relation to their namesake, other than the fact that the comics themselves may inspire the reader's own philosophic reflection. Calvin is actually an ill-tempered, ill-mannered and crude child, prone to flights of fancy, wild imaginary adventures, and complete dereliction of his studies, housework and all responsibility. He is also very intelligent. Hobbes is a tiger who comes to life when Calvin is alone. Whether or not this is purely imaginary is never explored within the strip. Hobbes is an observer, adviser, and (sometimes) ferocious wild animal. The two are inseparable and have a remarkably close friendship (whether real or imagined).

Play Calvin and Hobbies Retrospective

Calvin and Hobbes is a success story of epic proportions - both on the page and behind the scenes. In fact, the comic succeeded despite the actions of its author, Watterson. Even though calendars and other merchandise were published for a number of years, Watterson despised the message of commercialization he felt the sale of this merchandise implied, and threatened to quit making the comic strip if the products continued to be sold. So, aside from the few products sold from 1988-1990, no legitimate licensed Calvin and Hobbes items have been released. Of course, immediately after Watterson stopped licensing official products, an endless supply of car decals, t-shirts and other merchandise has been produced illegally, without any control of Watterson or Universal Press (the strip's syndicate). Car decals featuring Calvin are still being produced to this day.

CalvinballWatterson did make a mistake in his analysis of Calvin and Hobbes. By prohibiting any merchandise other than the 17 softcover books (and anthologies) from being published, he clearly sent mixed message to the public. If Calvin and Hobbes existed purely as an exercise in "art", then the only exhibition would be original strips displayed in art galleries - not softcover books being sold for $17.95 at every bookstore in the country. By turning Calvin and Hobbes into a product anyone can buy in bulk, Watterson gave up some of the artistic purity that can be claimed by an artist who wants their work to stand solely by itself. Of course then, pirates stepped in to make vulgar automobile stickers and even more offensive t-shirts. Watterson sold his product in the mass market but reneged on his responsibility to shepherd that product. Instead of a few tasteful t-shirts, mugs and carefully released items, Watterson abandoned his products to the dregs of the illegitimate commercial world.

What makes Calvin and Hobbies special? Why has it endured in the public consciousness for so long? The answer: it is one of the most thoughtful, heartfelt, reflective, tender and poignant comic strips ever made. It literally transcends the medium, elevating a disposable Sunday or daily comic strip into the highest form of art. Quite simply, Calvin and Hobbes makes you think, and also makes you feel. It captures the essence and purity of youth, along with those nascent stirrings of corruption that begin to blossom as we grow up. Watterson has captured it all, and put on display something everyone can appreciate. Whether or not you think Hobbes is "real", whether or not you experienced a childhood like Calvin's, all readers can agree - childhood is something to be treasured, and that is why Calvin and Hobbes itself is treasured to this day - form and function deliver a timeless message that inspires, allows reminiscence, but most of all makes us feel good.

Watterson stopped writing the strip in 1995 to the chagrin of the world. But the strip lives on. Calvin and Hobbes books are still published to this day and are required reading for anyone and everyone.

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